DATELINE: January 1999 Issue
Competition Tightens Between Macdrive and MacopenerBy Galen Gruman
For Mac users, dealing with PC disks is a no-brainerMac OS 8.1 and later handle Windows media such as floppy, Jaz, Zip, and SCSI hard disks, using the PC Exchange extension. But your Windows-using colleagues don’t have reciprocal support for your media.
Thankfully, there’s Windows software that lets PC users read Mac media. One mainstay Mac-disk-mounting utilityDataViz’s MacOpener 4.0has beefed-up support that includes Windows 98 and the HFS+ Mac-disk format in Mac OS 8.1 and 8.5. DataViz has also updated its Conversions Plus file-format translation utilitywhich includes MacOpenerto support Microsoft Office 98 files and to allow conversion of attachments in Microsoft Outlook 98’s e-mail program.
And MacDrive from Media4 Productions has also been updated. The changes between the 2.01 version reviewed and the current version (2.1) are essentially bug-fixes.
Disk Mounters Compared
The changes in the new release of MacOpener, 4.0, are very focused: Windows 98 and Mac OS HFS+ compatibility. Otherwise, the disk mounter is the same as in version 3.0. That’s not bad, since MacOpener does everything most users will need, whatever version of Windows is on their PC.
As you’d expect, MacOpener integrates into the Windows interface, making Mac media available in all standard Open and Save dialog boxes, through the Windows desktop drive icons, and through the Windows Explorer interface to system resources. It also adds a MacFormat option to the contextual menu when you right-click on a drive icon.
You can also set whether the PC or the Mac portion of dual-format CDs mounts and whether DOS file extensions are added or removed as files are moved from PC to Mac media and back. Once the utility is installed, you can use Mac disks on a PC as if they were native PC disks, and soon you’ll forget you have the program. That’s how seamless it is.
MacDrive 98 2.1 offers the same integration into Windows. Unlike MacOpener, however, MacDrive does not support Windows 3.1. But it has several nice utilities that MacOpener does not.
For example, it can identify Mac files’ creator and file types, which is handy when you are trying to update the extension maps in Mac-disk-mounting software, in cross-platform networking software, or in the Mac OS’s PC Exchange. Another handy utility lets you copy Mac disks from your PC’s drives.
On Media4’s Web site you’ll find several utilities that remap special symbols between Mac and PC files to correspond to the different locations where these symbols occur in Mac and PC font files.
Except for these small differences, the two programs are the same, and the nominal price difference doesn’t argue for one over the other. Basically, the two programs are incredibly similar: The extra utilities in MacDrive give you more options, but if you use Windows 3.1, you should go with MacOpener.
The newest version of DataViz’s Conversions Plus is not a major upgrade. It adds Microsoft Office 98 for Mac file formats to its translation list of word processing, database, spreadsheet, and graphics formats; integrates into Microsoft’s Outlook 98 e-mail manager; and has the nifty Attachment Opener, which decodes various compression formats (MIME, UUencode, and BinHex) popular for Web and e-mail files.
However, most people on both platforms are using Microsoft Office, and most modern programs import from and export to competing formats. Programs with Mac and PC versions almost always read each other’s files without translation.
If you deal with people who use outdated formats such as WordStar, you’ll want Conversions Plus, but otherwise, consider if you can handle translations with your current programs’ import/export options.
The Attachment Opener utility may be appealing, since there are still occasional mismatches between browsers, mail clients, and compression utilities (such as StuffIt and WinZip) that require manual decoding of file attachments.